Lawyer up for fraud

Lawyer up for fraud

 

Staff Reporter

MASERU

ATTORNEY Khotso Nthontho has been slapped with an additional charge of fraud related to the manner in which he represented one of the 23 soldiers accused of mutiny.

Thus far Nthontho has been facing a single charge of perjury and two alternative charges of making a false declaration and fabricating evidence.

This week however the prosecution added the count of fraud as well as two alternative charges of obstructing justice and contempt of court.

In the fraud charge the prosecution alleges that Nthonthodeliberately made false statements in an affidavit he filed with the Court of Appeal seeking the release of soldiers Aupa Mohasi and Molato Mohatlane.

The prosecution alleges that Nthontho deliberately misled the court when he claimed that Mohatlane had instructed him to depose to an affidavit.

It says in the affidavit the lawyer also misrepresented that Mohatlane was still in military custody and was under solitary confinement.

These statements made in an affidavit on November 9 last year, the prosecution claims, were false because Mohatlane had been released on October 14 and he had not instructed Nthontho to depose to the affidavit.

It is alleged that Nthontho induced the “Clerk or Registrar of the Court of Appeal to act upon said false representation to his/her detriment”.

The prosecution further says because of the affidavit Nthontho caused the respondents to consult their lawyers and draft answering papers.

The respondents were the commander of the army, director of military intelligence, Minister of Defence and the Attorney General.

On the first alternative charge the prosecution alleges that the statement Nthontho made in the affidavit was tantamount to an obstruction of justice because he caused the Court of Appeal to file the case and the respondents to file answering papers based on false claims.

This, the prosecution alleges, brought the administration of justice into disrepute.

On the second alternative charge the prosecution says the lawyer’s alleged actions were made with the intention of “defeating or interfering with the course of justice”. Nthontho first appeared in the Maseru Magistrates’Court in February for perjury.

In that matter he was accused of misrepresenting that Mohasi and Mohatlane had instructed him to depose to an affidavit.

It is alleged that the lawyer also made false statements that the two were still in custody and were in solitary confinement.

The alternative charges were that he allegedly fabricated evidence and made false declarations with the intention of misleading the court.

After adding the charge of fraud, the Director of Prosecution Leaba Thetsane KC wrote a savingram last Thursday telling the magistrate that Nthontho was being summarily indicted for trial before the High Court.

Yesterday, the prosecution and Nthontho’s lawyers were in the magistrate’s court where the case was officially moved to the High Court.

Neither Nthontho nor his lawyer, Tumisang Mosotho, could be reached for a comment at the time of going to press.

Nthontho was arrested on February 12, the same day his Masowe home was damaged by unidentified people.

His car was also damaged. Nthontho is one of several lawyers who are representing 23 soldiers who are accused of plotting mutiny against the army command.

Since May last year Nthontho has had fierce court battles with the army as he fought to have some of the soldiers released.

Nthontho’s arrest has been roundly condemned by both local and international lawyers’ organisations.

Lawyers for Lawyers and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, both advocacy groups, have called on the prosecution to withdraw the charges.

They said Lesotho should “provide effective measures to ensure the personal and professional safety of Haae Phoofolo, Christopher Lephuthing, Koili Ndebele, Khotso Nthontho and Tumisang Mosotho and prevent and punish threats, attacks and interference against them”.

They said Lesotho should also ensure “that the lawyers can carry out their professional duties free from intimidation, harassment and reprisal”.

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